Federal Judge Rules California's Ban on Assault Rifles Is Unconstitutional

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Posted: Jun 05, 2021 4:00 PM
Federal Judge Rules California's Ban on Assault Rifles Is Unconstitutional

Source: AP Photo/Charles Krupa, File

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez ruled that California's 1989 ban on assault weapons was unconstitutional, as it violated the Second Amendment. 

The part of Judge Benitez's 94-page ruling which has really made headlines came from his introduction. "Like the Swiss Army knife, the popular AR-15 rifle is a perfect combination of home defense weapon and homeland defense equipment. Good for both home and battle," he said.

Such a comparison is earned criticism from gun control advocates, media outlets, and Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA). Rob Bonta, the state's attorney general, has vowed to appeal the ruling. 

Although Judge Benitez issued a permanent injunction, saying "Under no level of heightened scrutiny can the law survive," he stayed it for 30 days to allow for Bonta to appeal, as Don Thompson with AP reported.

But there's more to the ruling. From Thompson:

“This case is not about extraordinary weapons lying at the outer limits of Second Amendment protection. The banned ‘assault weapons’ are not bazookas, howitzers, or machine guns. Those arms are dangerous and solely useful for military purposes,” [Benitez's] ruling said. “Instead, the firearms deemed ‘assault weapons’ are fairly ordinary, popular, modern.”

The judge said despite California’s ban, there currently are an estimated 185,569 assault weapons registered with the state.

They were grandfathered in before California’s evolving definition of an assault weapon.

“This is an average case about average guns used in average ways for average purposes,” the ruling said. “One is to be forgiven if one is persuaded by news media and others that the nation is awash with murderous AR-15 assault rifles. The facts, however, do not support this hyperbole, and facts matter.”

“In California, murder by knife occurs seven times more often than murder by rifle,” he added.

He also called the ban “a continuing failed experiment which does not achieve its objectives of preventing mass shootings or attacks on law enforcement officers.”

In a preliminary ruling in September, Benitez said California’s complicated legal definition of assault weapons can ensnare otherwise law-abiding gun owners with criminal penalties that among other things can strip them of their Second Amendment right to own firearms.

The legal definition is in fact so "complicated," confusing even, that Biden's nominee to head the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms doesn't know what it is. Katie's headline from a few weeks ago says it all: "ATF Nominee Offers 'Insanely Broad' Definition of 'Assault Weapon,' Which He Wants Banned." 

Thomas Bingham, a gun rights activist and former employee of the NRA, who has spoken with Townhall about the issue before, celebrated the ruling. "As a former Californian who owns guns, I'm glad to see the courts are overturning California illegal gun laws. The laws so little to stop crime and put law-abidding gun owners at risk of imprisonment or worse," he said in a statement to Townhall. 

The lawsuit was brought by the San Diego County Gun Owners Political Action Committee, California Gun Rights Foundation, Second Amendment Foundation, and Firearms Policy Coalition.